13th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C (2)

A superficial reading of today’s First Reading and Gospel may give us the impression that Elijah is easier on his disciple than Our Lord is with his, but the Second Reading can shed a little light on the apparent difference.

In today’s First Reading we see Elisha called by Elijah to follow him and become a prophet. The Lord sent Elijah to invite Elisha to follow him. Every call comes from the Lord. Elisha asks Elijah if we can put his affairs in order before leaving. Scholars differ about what Elijah meant when he responds, “Have I done anything to you?” It seems he is simply saying that Elisha has not started following yet and is free to do what he wants. Elisha does a last gesture of kindness and concern for his family before dedicating his life to the Lord’s service.

Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that life is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The Christian life presents a new way of living, living in a way that you are not enslaved to things and situations, but alive in the Spirit and focused on the spiritual goal. Even good things, if sought for the wrong reasons, can oppose a life of the Spirit. The ultimate measure of Christian living is whether you are truly loving your neighbor or not. Every direction we take in life is measured by our intentions in taking the next step.

A common denominator in today’s First Reading and Gospel is that the disciple asks to do something before following his master. The subtle difference is that, unlike Elijah, Our Lord can always read hearts and see whether that heart is speaking from the flesh or from the Spirit. Elisha is “liquidating his assets” and doing one last gesture of love for his family before departing. The hearts of disciples in today’s Gospel are only known to Our Lord, and it is in his response to them that we see a potential conflict between Spirit and flesh that he is trying to help them address.

The first disciple in today’s Gospel perhaps doesn’t understand that following Our Lord is a lifelong commitment: he’s not just headed to the Rabbi’s house instead of his own, he is committed to permanently follow Jesus, just as every Christian is called to do, and go wherever he leads them.

The second disciple wants to attend to important family business, but sometimes following Our Lord requires sacrifice and self-denial: in telling the dead to bury their dead Our Lord perhaps is telling him too that the family business he is concerned about can already be handled by another member of his family. Remember here that, unlike Elijah, the Lord can read hearts.

The last potential disciple wants to go home and say goodbye first: Our Lord sees something in that request that would put flesh over Spirit. Perhaps the disciple would go home and stay there. Perhaps his father or mother would convince him not to leave. Following Christ is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our family, and we must never lose sight of that.

Most Acts of Contrition today include the promise to avoid the “near occasion of sin” or “whatever leads me to sin.” We all know there are places both physical and virtual that we should not go, and many of them have no warning signs posted, because there are people out there who want you to fall into danger so that they can profit from it. Certain situations can also lead us to sin, situations we must strive to avoid. Lastly, certain attitudes can make us skate on thin ice when it comes to living a life of virtue and holiness. They should raise yellow flags or red flags in our conscience depending on how close they bring us to spiritual ruin. Take some time this week with the Holy Spirit’s help to assess your moral “early warning system” and whether there are certain places, situations, or attitudes that you need to weed out of your life.

Readings: 1 Kings 19:16b, 19–21; Psalm 16:1–2, 5, 7–11; Galatians 5:1, 13–18; Luke 9:51–62. See also 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, Cycle C, 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II and 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.

Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle C (2)

Today we celebrate a gift born of blessings from Our Lord, the blessing that bread and wine, combined with his sacrifice, become his Body and Blood, the Eucharist.

The First Reading today shows us a foreshadowing of the gift we are celebrating today. Abram, who we know today as Abraham, our father in faith, had just rescued his nephew Lot from kings who captured him during a raid. The high priest Melchizedek was a mysterious figure in the Old Testament: he almost came out of nowhere to bless Abram for the rescue, and Abram paid him a special tribute for the blessing. A priest brings forth bread and wine and a blessing, and Abram gives him a tribute…Does this sound familiar? Does it remind you of anything you do on Sundays? I’m not referring to the collection basket. In the letter to the Hebrews we see the connection between Melchizedek and Christ: Christ is that priest who brings bread and wine, but above all a blessing, a transforming one or, as the theologians say, a transubstantiating one. Through Christ’s blessing that bread and wine become his body and blood, soul and divinity: the Eucharist.

In Abram’s case this blessing was not just for him, but for his descendants, and in the Second Reading today Paul tells the Corinthians that he is just a bearer of the blessing too. Paul says, “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,” and then he recalls the words priests says every time Mass is celebrated over the bread and wine so that they become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of Jesus until he comes, as St. Paul tells the Corinthians, and, as we pray in Mass, until he comes in glory. Every celebration of the Eucharist is a sacrifice. We offer up the sacrifice of the Son of God.

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us that he never intended for us to go it alone. When he ascended into Heaven, he promised he would be with is until the end of the age. He remains with us through the Eucharist. He didn’t tell the disciples, “send them off, tell them to read a book, go see a doctor, apologize that the catering was not arranged.” They came to Christ and received a blessing that transformed them and others. If you don’t see the blessings in your life, ask Jesus to show you. He is in every tabernacle so that you can approach him and ask him for guidance, healing, strength, direction. He comes into your heart every time you receive Holy Communion worthily. He may ask something of you that makes no sense, that is hard to understand, that seems too much for your strength, beyond your means, but he will bless it. He will transform it into twelve wicker baskets full of blessings. They may not be the blessings you expected—the disciples didn’t expect at the end of the day that they would have twelve baskets full of food and thousands of people fed—but Jesus will help you to count your blessings. Let’s offer Jesus our whole life so that he can bless it and transform it.

The Eucharist is more than just a blessing. It is Our Lord, the bearer of blessings. Our Lord remains with us outside the times of participating in Mass so that we can spend time together and continue to be blessed. When did you last spend some time in Adoration before the tabernacle? The bearer of blessings is waiting for you.

Readings: Genesis 14:18–20; Psalm 110:1–4; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; Luke 9:11b–17. See also Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Cycle C, Solemnity of Corpus Christi17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B2nd Week of Easter, Friday1st Week of Advent, Wednesday, and Tuesday after Epiphany.

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle C (2)

The Gospel reminds us today that all the Father has, all the Son has, and in turn all the Holy Spirit will declare to his disciples is of the whole Trinity.  The hallmark of our Christian faith is that there is One God in Three Persons, or we risk writing off God in one way or another by considering the Father as aloof, utterly transcendent and beyond our daily lives and interests, authoritarian; considering Jesus Christ just another rabbi or wise man, sharing some human teachings with us and giving good example, nothing more than a social worker; or considering the Holy Spirit as just another one of those flighty inspirations and sentiments that never results in anything.

Today’s readings remind us that everything we are, everything for which we hope, and everything expected of us and that we expect from God comes to us from the whole Trinity. What are expectations and what are the Trinity’s?

In the First Reading we see the Trinity relishing in the creation of the world. The wisdom of God is speaking and reminiscing of the moment of creation. He describes himself as the forerunner of God’s wonders, before the earth was made. In these words, we are reminded that God the Father made the world with his Son in mind, gazing upon him in eternity with love.

The Son in turn, begotten by the Father, as we profess every Sunday in the Creed, delights over creation and the human race. This hearkens back to the first chapters of Genesis, when the Spirit of the Lord hovered over the face of the deep, ready to begin creation with “let there be light.” When the Lord creates man, he breathes his own spirit into him, a Spirit of life, making him a living being and wanting to create men in his own image and likeness. We see that spirit of play and artistic relish that reminds us of God’s total freedom to create us, without any need and restraint, and with us in mind as his true masterpieces, made in his image.

In creating man, the Trinity had an even more special masterpiece in mind, a masterpiece that would in part craft itself. He gave us the freedom to conform our lives to this masterpiece of life that he wanted to see brought about in each of us. In faith and love we could trust in him to show us the way to be a true masterpiece, a masterpiece of moral beauty, truth, and love. When Adam and Eve sinned they chose their distorted image of God as the model to imitate, and the image of God was disfigured in them. As a result, just as God warned them before eating of the fruit, spiritual death ensued. Nevertheless, God’s delight in us and desire for our glory would not let the story end there.

As the Second Reading reminds us, God became man to show us that true masterpiece and image of God that he had in mind from all eternity. As Paul reminds us, through our Lord Jesus Christ we have peace and access to the glory of God again. God created the world with his Son’s image in mind, and Jesus, by becoming flesh, by becoming a man, shows us exactly what God had on his mind when he created us. That image of God found in Christ shows us how we can restore the image of God in us that was disfigured by sin. By Christ becoming man our likeness is restored as well: the flow of spiritual life is reopened by Jesus’ Passion and death, and poured into us by the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, as we profess in the Creed every Sunday. Full of that divine life, we happily put up with the sufferings and struggles of daily life, knowing that the glory of God will come for us.

As the Gospel reminds us, God is not just the origin of our existence, but the purpose of it as well, the end toward which we’re all headed. It is not the end in terms being finished, it is the beginning of eternal life with the Trinity. Jesus became man and suffered and died to reconcile the world with God, the Father of mercies. He does this by sending the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the disciples during the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit, of which Jesus was full during his entire earthly mission, would come after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven to constantly keep Christ among us and give us life through the sacraments, as well as guidance and strength to be faithful to the image of God that Jesus Christ had restored in us. As the Lord, the giver of Life, the Holy Spirit continues to keep the Church united around Christ, proclaiming the Gospel to the world through her words and example. Jesus reminds us that the Holy Spirit will not say anything apart from what the Father and Son share. The Trinity is and always will be united as the source of our existence, our hope, and our life.

The Lord delighted in creating you. Have you ever asked yourself what he had in mind when he created you? He has endowed you with the freedom to decide how you live your life, but also revealed to you the ways you can end up on a road to nowhere. If the Lord has a purpose for you, what would it be? Ask him this week.

Readings: Proverbs 8:22–31; Psalm 8:4–9; Romans 5:1–5; John 16:12–15. See also Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle C and Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

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Mary, Mother of the Church

On Calvary, when the Lord told Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” and his beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!” (see John 19:26-27) Mary didn’t just become the mother of St. John the Evangelist (believed to be the “disciple” described in his Gospel); she became the mother of all believers. The Second Vatican Council would later describe Mary as our mother “in the order of grace”:

This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and [difficulties], until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator (Lumen Gentium, 62).

The Heavenly Father has adopted us through Baptism, making Our Lord our big brother and Mary our Mother. From the moment Mary accepted the invitation to become the Mother of God (at the Annunciation) she has never stopped watching over us, Our Lord’s “brothers and sisters,” with maternal love. She still does from Heaven, continuing to work with her firstborn son, Our Lord, until we all make it to our heavenly home.

Let’s give our mother in the order of grace the honor she deserves today.

Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 87:1-2, 3 and 5, 6-7; John 19:25-34.

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Pentecost Sunday, Cycle C (2)

Some people call Pentecost Sunday the birthday of the Church, but, while a lovely thought, that’s not entirely accurate. Today, the last day of the Easter season, we celebrate when the Church “goes public”: the frightened men in the upper room are emboldened by the Holy Spirit to go out and proclaim the Good News, and the Holy Spirit helps them to be understood. Some see this moment as reversing what happened at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9): if the pride and hubris of men led them to division and misunderstanding, the Spirit of the Lord brings them back together again into one people through reconciliation with God and with each other.

The places named in today’s First Reading by the astounded Jews are all places where the Church first spread, aided by the Holy Spirit. The inspiration of the Apostles by the Holy Spirit was always meant to inspire all believers. Like the tongues of flame descending on the Apostles, the Holy Spirit wants to enflame hearts. We’re all called to not only let our hearts be enflamed by the Holy Spirit, but to share that flame with others as well. The devout Jews recalled today are from all over Asia Minor, as well as far flung places like Rome and Cyrene. They went out and brought enflamed hearts to their native places, and shared the flame of an ardent faith inspired by the Holy Spirit.

As St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13), it is thanks to the Spirit that we can pray at all. Pentecost Sunday is a special day for celebrating the many gifts the Holy Spirit lavishes upon the Church. Throughout the Easter season we’ve seen the Spirit emboldening, instructing, dissuading, and strengthening the disciples as they started to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Just as we are the Mystical Body of Christ, a Biblical image of the Church, the Holy Spirit is like the Soul of that Body, giving the Body form and life that makes the Church visible as a living thing. With the Holy Spirit’s help the Church is not just a conglomeration of people who agree on certain teachings, but a communion of life and love that wants to welcome everyone into the fold, reconciling them with God in the process.

In today’s Gospel the Risen Lord gives the Apostles a special infusion of the Holy Spirit that helps them reconcile sinners with God and helps people to see when they haven’t. Pentecost Sunday is not just a day for celebrating the Holy Spirit’s gifts that enable us to be in communion with each other; it is also a day for celebrating the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing us into and maintaining our communion with the Most Holy Trinity, which we’ll celebrate next Sunday. Without this gift of reconciliation through the Holy Spirit there is no communion, and without this communion, little by little, divisions and misunderstandings are sown. Through the Holy Spirit we remain unified and united, among ourselves and with God.

The Church has a beautiful prayer to invoke the Holy Spirit. Take some time this week to pray it in first person:

Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart and kindle in me the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and you will renew me.

Help me to know what is right and to rejoice always in the Spirit’s consolation. Amen.

Readings: Acts 2:1–11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13; John 20:19–23.See also Pentecost Sunday, Cycle C, Second Sunday of Easter, 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Cycle C, and Pentecost Sunday.